Commission to discuss marina lease

PAHOKEE — The Pahokee City Commission has scheduled a special meeting next Tuesday evening, Aug. 29, at 6 p.m. in the expectation that all the T’s will be crossed and the I’s dotted in a just-drafted, long-term lease agreement with the city that is being sought by a group of investors from Everglades City. Heading up the group, which is responding to Pahokee’s request for proposals on operating the city marina, restaurant and campground, is Robert A. Miller Jr., owner of the Oyster House restaurant in Everglades City, who attended Pahokee’s regular commission meeting Tuesday night.

Several commissioners were ready to go ahead and act then, against advice from the city manager and city attorney because a contract had not been signed nor its exhibits and attachments completed, but Commissioners Felisia Hill and Clara Murvin, along with Vice Mayor Nathaniel Holmes, had to settle for just another week’s wait.

Mayor Keith Babb started the meeting by thanking Mr. Miller for coming and noting that the commission might add his proposed agreement – which had just been reached Monday afternoon – to the agenda for discussion. He ran through several routine matters, then asked City Manager Chandler Williamson and City Attorney Gary Brandenburg where the negotiations stood with Mr. Miller’s group.

“Mr. Mayor,” the attorney addressed him, “that agreement was drafted this afternoon. I would recommend that you all take the copy of it and read it extremely carefully, and that you not approve it tonight because we don’t have the exhibits prepared and the contract is not signed by the lessee, so it’s not ready for presentation to you.”

He said he was unsure whether Mr. Miller’s group even had seen the draft agreement or would agree to all the provisions inserted; but, at Commissioner Murvin’s prompting, Mr. Brandenburg asked Mr. Miller directly: “Have you received the agreement, sir?”

“Yes,” he answered. “And are you in agreement with it?” the attorney asked. “I would say, basically we are in agreement, yes,” Mr. Miller responded. “OK, so that means no,” Mr. Brandenburg said quickly. “They said ‘basically’ they’re in agreement, which means they’re not in agreement. They need to be entirely in agreement with it, and sign it, with all the exhibits attached to it, filled out, which I have provided to you with the exception of the legal description. When that’s done, then we can move forward with a special meeting.”

Mayor Babb said he would not add the tentative agreement to the agenda in that case, but Commissioner Murvin pressed Mr. Miller. “Are we ready to go? How do you all feel about the agreement? What’s what?”

“The terms for the payment, we’re all in agreement,” Mr. Miller said. “Our group is … in agreement with the terms of the monetary amount, it’s just some of the additional stuff that we have to add or delete onto what the city has to do. We did receive it late today, so I was looking at it through my iPhone. I’ve been here since 7 o’clock this morning … working on stuff besides that so we’re ready to go. I think this can be accomplished within the next few days. We’re really, really close.”

Mr. Brandenburg explained his reasoning for suggesting a delay: “The reason that I’ve suggested that it’s not going to be done tonight is that, first, none of the commissioners have read it. And they can’t be expected to approve a 10-year deal that’s a major deal for the city without even having read the document. Secondly, the exhibits aren’t attached to it, and you haven’t signed it,” he said to Mr. Miller, “and the commission has adopted a policy not more than two months ago that no contracts come to the commission until the other side signs it.”

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